Video Producer: Vishnu Gopinath
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An alleged local aide of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kedarnath Shukla was arrested late at night on Tuesday, 4 July, by Madhya Pradesh Police for allegedly urinating on a tribal man in Sidhi.
The man, identified as Pravesh Shukla, a BJP worker in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, was caught on camera purportedly urinating over a tribal man named Dashmat Rawat while smoking a cigarette in an inebriated state.
The undated 10-second video, which is said to be several months old, went viral on social media on Tuesday, creating an uproar in the state.
As per locals, 36-year-old Dashmat Rawat was on his way to a market in Kubri village when he encountered Pravesh. Pravesh was heavily intoxicated at the time. When Rawat approached him to request his unpaid wages, Pravesh physically assaulted him and then urinated on him.
Rawat is a member of the Kol tribe, the largest tribal community in the state's Vindhya region.
Traditionally known for being ardent supporters of the BJP, the Kol community, according to the 2011 Census, has a population of over 11.67 lakh – and holds significant political influence in over two dozen Assembly seats across the region.
In the last three months, the BJP has organised at least two major events to cash in the votes of this community ahead of the state Assembly elections later this year.
Sources told The Quint that since both the accused and the victim hail from Kubri village – and the victim belongs to a "minority class" – his family didn't have the courage to lodge a complaint over the incident.
Pawan Singh, the incharge of Bahri Police Station, under which the incident occurred, told The Quint:
"After we got information about the viral video today (Tuesday, 4 July), we lodged a suo motu FIR under several sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. We also forwarded the case to invoke the provisions of the NSA (National Security Act) against the accused."Pawan Singh
A Timeline of the Incident
On 4 July, a video went viral showing a man urinating on another man sitting on the stairs of a shop.
The video was said to be from Sidhi district in Madhya Pradesh.
The Opposition Congress slammed the BJP for inaction and alleged that the latter was insulting the tribals in the state.
Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress President and tribal leader Vikrant Bhuria also accused the BJP of insulting tribals and questioned the party's "mentality."
"You can see what kind of a party it is. They do not respect tribals, they only know how to suppress minorities and the incident is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of such incidents do not see the light of day. BJP is a non-tribal party having no respect for us."Vikrant Bhuria
Bhuria further said, "No matter how much they are well-wishers of the tribals, in reality, they are all anti-tribals and people who follow the Manuwad. This is the reason why the names of BJP leaders figure the most in atrocities against tribals."
BJP MLA Denies Association With Accused Pravesh Shukla
As the Congress went into attack mode, sharing pictures of the accused with BJP leaders, the saffron party initially denied their association with the accused Pravesh Shukla.
Even MLA Kedarnath Shukla said Pravesh was not his aide. However, several pamphlets, posters, and documents alleging his close association with him made the rounds on social media.
Speaking to The Quint on Tuesday evening, the BJP MLA from Sidhi categorically denied his association with the accused. He said that he isn't even a member of the party, let alone his aide.
"I know him, but he is neither a member of the BJP nor is he my representative. I came to know about the issue today and have spoken to the CM regarding this. The strictest action will be taken against the culprits."Kedarnath Shukla
However, by around 10 pm on Tuesday night, Pravesh Shukla's father Ramshankar Shukla said, while speaking to the media, that his son is an aide of the MLA and alleged that he has been targeted due to his political activities.
"He has been an MLA representative for the last 4-5 years and he is still the MLA representative. He has been targeted for his political activity."Ramashankar Shukla
While the political circus went on till late on Tuesday night with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the state BJP president VD Sharma claiming to ensure stringent punishment for the accused, the latter, when questioned about the association of the accused with the party, said:
"It is not only unfortunate, but I condemn this incident. Such people won't be spared at any cost. And such (party) worker is no (party) worker."VD Sharma
When questioned by the media if the accused has been removed from the party, Sharma responded in the affirmative.
Locals, however, claimed that the BJP had been trying to "hide" the case, but social media is making it impossible for them to do so.
Major Dent to BJP's Political Outreach Programme
In what seems to be a significant setback to the incumbent BJP, which is trying to regain the trust of tribals and get their votes in the upcoming Assembly elections, the incident, as per political experts, will prove to be a sore one for the BJP.
In 2018, the BJP could win only 16 out of the total 47 reserved Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats, while it won 31 ST seats in the 2013 Assembly elections.
A senior journalist in the state, requesting anonymity, said that this incident will "water down all the efforts" by the BJP, including those of its top leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, to woo tribals ahead of the polls.
"The BJP will regret this incident for a long time. They have been trying to gain the trust of tribal voters since 2018 and all the senior leaders, including PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, have done a lot of work to get tribals to vote for BJP. But this incident will water down all the efforts. It might also start the rumble against BJP's election plans," the journalist told The Quint.
(With inputs from Kanishk Tiwari)